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SYFY WIRE Box Office

Box office: Tenet inverts its way to $20 million in U.S. bow; New Mutants drops 74 percent

By Josh Weiss
Tenet John David Washington

Even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Christopher Nolan is able to bring in the big bucks at the box office. His latest mind-bending effort, Tenet, is expected to bring in $20 million during its U.S. debut over the long Labor Day weekend. Globally, it's already nearing the $150 million mark — the film opened in foreign territories two weeks ago. While the project cost Warner Bros. over $200 million to make, the studio is happy to play the long game and allow the movie to play in theaters for a longer period of time in order to recoup production costs.

The first massive blockbuster to hit the big screen since the COVID-19 health crisis first shut theaters down back in March, Tenet is Nolan's ode to both the spy and time-travel genres. Set in the space of global espionage, the story follows a secret agent (John David Washington), who must prevent a mysterious global catastrophe that's about to hit the present from the distant future. Introduced to a temporal anomoly known as "inversion," the operative (who is never named, by the way) hops around the world, crashing planes, fighting time-reversed soldiers, and infiltrating the inner circle of the nefarious Russian arms dealer Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh).

Tenet was originally set for release on July 17, but its theatrical rollout was pushed several times until WB decided that other countries that had a better handle on the virus would be able to see it first. With theaters now open in 2,800 screens across America (albeit with certain health safety restrictions in place), we'll see if hitting $1 billion is still possible in 2020. If anyone can make that possible, though, it's Nolan. Even with 70 percent of theaters reopened — including those in New Jersey — key markets (i.e. New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco) remain steadfast in keeping their screens on lockdown until COVID case numbers start making a sharp decline. Tenet can play at drive-in locations, which have seen a major resurgence amid the pandemic. However, the studio is only allowing drive-ins to show the flick if indoor theaters in the area are also open.

Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Himesh Patel, Michael Caine, and Martin Donovan co-star. Reviews have mostly been positive, but the movie has the second-worst Rotten Tomatoes score (74 percent) out of the filmmaker's entire line of work. Interstellar sits at the bottom, with 72 percent.


Now in its second weekend, Disney's The New Mutants is looking to bring in an extra $3.5 million for a North American tally of $12.3 million. According to Forbes, the X-Men horror movie brought in $800,000 on Friday, marking a 74 percent drop in revenue since the project opened in domestic theaters last weekend to $7 million. With a production budget of $60-$80 million, it has less to prove, financially speaking, than Tenet does. Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars, The Stand) directed from a script co-written with his childood friend, Knate Lee.

The New Mutants actually has some major competition from another Disney release: Mulan. The live-action remake from director Niki Caro (The Zookeeper's Wife) is mainly available on Disney+ for a Premier Access fee of $29.99, but it's also playing in theaters where the streaming service is not available. Thanks to markets in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, Mulan has brought in $5.9 million thus far. That figure should rise considerably as the film arrives in China and Russia next week. Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin, the reimagining of the 1998 animated classic stars Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Ron Yuan, Gong Li, and Jet Li.

In last place, we have Bill & Ted Face the Music. Since the threequel is also available on VOD, its box-office presence has been rather low, with just over $1 million worldwide.

Mulan & Black Widow

(via Variety)